The Square and the Tower

The Square and the Tower

Networks and Power, From the Freemasons to Facebook

Book - 2018
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"A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a struggle between old power hierarchies and new social networks. Most history is hierarchical: it's about popes, presidents, prime ministers and other potentates. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the less visible social networks that are the true drivers of change--leaving them to the conspiracy theorists, with their dreams of all-powerful Illuminati? The twenty-first century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in [this book], Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real. From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks. Far from being novel, Ferguson argues, our era is the Second Networked Age, with the personal computer in the role of the printing press. And he shows how network theory--concepts such as homophily, degrees of separation, weak ties, viral contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present. Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective as the financial crisis struck ten years ago, so The Square and the Tower does for Silicon Valley as political storm clouds gather over the tech titans. Those who prophesize a global community of interconnected netizens are in for a shock, Ferguson warns. For the conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries already have unnerving parallels today in the time of Facebook, the Islamic State and Trump."--Dust jacket.
A reevaluation of history's turning points as collisions between old power hierarchies and new social networks explains how networks have always existed and have been responsible for key innovations and revolutionary ideas.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2018
ISBN: 9780735222915
0735222916
Branch Call Number: 302.3 FERGU
Characteristics: xxvii, 563 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm

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Candaceb108
Feb 20, 2018

This is a terrific book. I had not read any of Niall Ferguson's books prior to The Tower And The Square. It is filled with facts, data, charts, and illustrations, but the pages fly by. He is a joy to read. This is an important work at this time in our world and our country. Like a survey course in college, it spans ages. One is left with a feeling of optimism in that humans have been in tight squeezes many times before and the forces of openness have prevailed, many times after horrific periods, true, but prevailed. One is also left with the feeling that although the costumes change, the inherent forces are basically the same. Those in power like it that way, and don't want to play nicely with others. Similarly, one is reinforced in the belief that religion is a powerful way to control people, to unify the masses UNDER a leader who asserts a connection to that 'god', and being chosen by that 'god'. In other words, the use of religion enables despotic leaders to make dissent of the leadership, the 'sin' of the critic.

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